Your thoughts on vintage glass

My screw-thread Leica lenses from the 1930’s had some glare, reducing overall contrast, easily compensated for in the darkroom. I don’t have a digital camera that can use those lenses.

My Nikkor lenses, mostly bought second-hand in the 1990s, work fine on my D800, for what I do. They are mostly manual focus and aperture, without image stabilization.

I would just add that what I love about the Pentax cameras is that you put vintage lenses on them and they become stabilised because image stabilization is built into the body. The bayonet mount for Pentax is also 100% compatible. I am finding this also the case with my Canon R7 using a $40 third party EF to R adaptor.

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And one can adapt just about any SLR lens mount that ever existed the same - it’s one of the big advantages of mirrorless IMO.


Yes… but the $40 adaptor for the Canon has electronic contacts to control stabilisation, aperture and autofocus when using Canon lenses. Maybe one day I might get a Nikon or Pentax to Canon R adapter.


Oh, right… I didn’t expect that from a $40 adaptor! :slight_smile: :+1: :+1:

I could have paid nearly $200 for the privilege of having Canon printed on the adapter.


Yup, I love the IBIS on my Sony. No need for tripods in most scenarios. What brand adapters are you using? I have had a good experience with Kentfaith adapters.

My adaptor is an Andoer and works well. I doubt there would be any advantage in a more expensive one as it is only a spacer with electronic contacts.


Well for around $20 an adapter I haven’t found any issue with mine yet. I actually expected some infinity focus issues but it seems like they have their manufacturing tolerances set properly.


For what it’s worth, I’ve used loads of different adapters in a variety of different mounts; all of them inexpensive. Never had a single issue with any of them.

It’s important to note, though, that they’re all ‘dumb’ adapters in my case: no IBS (my camera doesn’t have it), no AF, no… well… anything; everything is manual.


I can certainly identify, but why can’t you use the camera’s focus point indicator to make it focus where you wish? That said, I often end up going to manual focus but not all the time.


Unless you find them at a price where you cannot ignore the good deal, suggest you stick with what you have already. I got into digital photography via vintage manual focus lenses. But my 1st and only modern glass Sony’s 50 mm 1.8 which I used to shoot a wedding, on a Sony APS-C camera, convinced me - of the false economy of vintage. If the image is important, my prized vintage Canon FD 1.4 50mm is no match for Sony’s cheapest full frame modern lens - in colour accuracy, and of course the blessings of autofocus - and I’m still relying on contrast detect autofocus on my old digital camera.

Editing the images afterwards was a revelation - in sharpness, colour, contrast. Unless one just loves pain, for taking regular photos, can’t think of what would make me buy another vintage lens. My 2 cents.

What one has to ask is - -what exactly is the difference between modern lenses and vintage. Assume purchased from a reputable brand - the modern lens will have :

  1. Corrections in your image editing software, for any anomalies in the lens (I’m assuming you shoot raw. (otherwise if you shoot Jpg the camera will apply these corrections )

  2. Quality control.

  3. Warranty.

It all depends, some ae far more focussed on the gear than the image. If its the image that’s the most important to obtain a more balanced version of reality that you can edit to present the scene as best as possible - modern lenses all day.


Well said. When I find myself longing for some fancy new lens or a sensor with more pixels squeezed in, I (try to) remember that my modest gear is miles ahead of anything Cartier-Bresson ever used, and he did ok. While I’m sure he could get better images with my gear than I could, I’m even more sure that my images would be much worse if I used his gear!


These are some very good reasons to stick with modern lenses, and I agree with your 3 points. Some of these vintage lenses sell for enough to buy a modern lens and you lose out on the QC and warranty. It doesn’t help that current market prices for vintage lenses seem to be going up. Just recently a lens I was looking for was listed for $725USD when the going price in 2009 was $250USD. I’m just going to stick with what I have for now until a good deal pops up.

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For reference, my favourate lens cost £9 at a yard sale. It wasn’t made last Tuesday, but it wasn’t exactly made during the stoneage either. It takes fantastic images. It doesn’t need a warranty because it’s easy to repair and maintain. It’s built like a tank.

My point is simply this: a good lens is a good lens. To say a modern lens performs ‘better’ than an older one isn’t entirely accurate. Modern lenses are an entirely different beast to their older relatives - they are (in many cases, at least) designed and made with different objectives in mind. The topic is vast, though, and covers way too much to go into here.

The question, though, is this: if you’re looking for a specific vintage lens (or any lens, for that matter) without ever having shot with it, then why? Because someone else is happy with it? In my experience, many vintage lenses are just as good as modern ones, but that may not be the case for others — and this could be for an endless amount of reasons.


After owning almost every lens make from the famous marques to the more common lenses over a few decades of photography and now videography I can say that back in the day most of us would have killed for the options available to us today from China and Japan.

The old lenses, in general, were expensive, variable and often not that great. More accurately, all lenses have variability, it was one of the things pointed out in the Robert M, third party lens guide.

From the old days, true legends were Kodak Ektar lenses for large format, and Konica Hexanon lenses for medium format. Kingslake always said the Tessar lens design was one with very little room for error in design and manufacture. So if you find Tessar design lens that is sharp from one or two stops down that is a good measure.

These days I go for classic lens designs in modern livery, such as Heliar designs or Planar or Xenotar designs for instance. Many of those lens designs can be had from Nikkor macro (why call them micro, Nikon?) and from China or Voigtlander.

My feeling is today, Sigma and Voigtlander/Cosina and Venus Optics are the most interesting and innovative manufacturers today. TTartisan and 7artisan too coming up too. Every old manufacturer was a new manufacturer once upon a time.

All I can say is stay away from r/vintagelenses, a lot of noise with very little signal. In contrast, Mflenses and largeformatphotography have a depth of knowledge worth reading about.


Very true. Correct if I’m wrong, but I believe it was Stanely Kubrick that used to order several copies of a lens so he could select the one he liked best? I imagine others did the same.

He was also a talented photographer; in fact, I think he started with photography before he shot movies.

That statement may help me get my point across a little better: If it’s ‘no match’ for the modern Sony in terms of ‘image quality,’ then why do you consider it ‘prized?’


100%. So much of it is the mind and vision behind the camera, and the years of taking so many bad shots, that the great photographers develop and internalise their own workflow to successful shots. And of course the subject. Looking back and remembering what are dreary shots of uninteresting looking plants (was thrilling at the time!) Must say thank God for the improvements over the recent 20 years - now the better cameras and lenses are perfect, can’t think of what more they can come up with. I do wonder how many expensive cameras of hobbyists are sitting in drawers taking the occasional image.


How would I have known that its image quality was worse than the modern Sony? In a false economy, I paid about 50% the price of the modern Sony lens, to buy this Canon FD from Japan. A the time I had this Canon FD as my prized lens cos it was the best, colour wise, and sharpness, and contrast, of three vintage 50mm lenses I had acquired over about a year. So for me, it was, based on its image quality, and price - my most expensive lens at the time, and best.

Until I bought the Sony.

I would also add. Isn’t it a relief not to have a need for adapters. What a relief… less junk to potentially lose, or misplace. Vintage lenses typically need adapters…stress. With the Sony - just plug straight in twist, lock end of. None of this problems with focus to infinity that happens with some vintage lenses… But it depends on what one wants. I still prefer washing a car the old way - by hand with a bucket, sponge - no hoses and jets - gives me a lot of satisfaction, definitely not with cameras - good modern lens - auto focus, take the shot.

Manual focus, in my own case where my old digital camera did not have a built in electronic viewfinder(eyepiece) was just hell…


I see. The reason I asked was only because I have a few older lenses that hold up very well to my modern Fuji glass, including the one I bought for £9. It’s interesting how experiences differ.

In terms of what I would call ‘image accuracy,’ modern optics (in general) will certainly win out: benefits of greater research, modern manufacturing techniques, better raw materials… in other words, advancements in just about everything will (or, at least should) lead to improvements all around. Not to mention that older lenses were never actually designed to be used by digital cameras. But, make no mistake; you can still get some fantastic images from vintage glass.

I love shooting with older lenses, but it’s as much about the experience of shooting with it as it is about the photos. I love capturing that nostalgic look in a stranger’s eyes when I take their portrait using something that reminds them of days gone by; I love walking around with a little bit of history stuck on my camera, and I love having a lot more money left over to go to the pub when I’m done. I also like the way they look and feel.

Autofocus and street photography (which is what I do) aren’t a great mix, and that’s another important point — the needs of a street-photographer, for example, will be entirely different to that of a landscape photographer (I’m sure that a tree doesn’t react any different no matter what you point at it, and in street photography you’ll be lucky if you capture the ‘special moment’ in ANY way, shape or form :wink:).

But that’s just me. I’m not a photogtapher; I’m just a hippie with a camera. :blush: